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Duncan Knob - Luray, VA

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
8.7 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
4.0 hours plus a half hour for lunch
2,200 ft with two different ascents
George Washington National Forest
Apple Blossom Inn
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Trail head and parking area for the Scothorn Gap Trail
Crisman Hollow Road/VA211 intermittently closes in the winter to traffic due to road deterioration. Check with the GWNF for gate status at 540-984-4101. 38.69127, -78.58014

Part of Middle Mountain in the George Washington National Forest, and sister hike to the Duncan Knob Hollow Hike, the Duncan Knob hike offers solitude, a rock scrabble, and great views of the Massanutten Range and Shenandoah Valley. Water is scarce over most of the hike, so make sure to bring plenty.

Start up yellow blazed Scothorn Gap Trail after crossing Passage Creek. Traverse one switch back and climb steeply, pass a clearing and pond (depending on what time of the year it is, the pond might be completely dry) at 1.0 miles.

At 1.3 miles come to a four way junction and the yellow blazed Scothorn Gap Trail you have been on turns left. Directly ahead is the orange blazed Massanutten Trail, which you will use to return. To the right is Massanutten Connector Trail.

Turn left on Scothorn Gap Trail, the trail gradually rises and passes a small clearing before coming to the junction of blue blazed Gap Creek Trail after 1.5 miles from turning left at the junction.

Turn right onto blue blazed Gap Creek Trail as it ascends steeply to the ridge line in 0.3 miles. On the ridge line is a white blazed trail on the left. This leads you to Duncan Knob in 0.3 miles, requiring scrambling over rocks in places to get there.

To continue the hike return to Gap Creek Trail and Turn left. Note: it is easy to miss the trail on the way back, the white blazes in the rock field are hard to find. Just remain on the ridge line and you will reestablish the white trail if you miss it.

Take blue blazed Gap Creek Trail downward (steep) for 0.8 miles before meeting up with the orange blazed Massanutten Trail, at a four way junction, where you will turn right.

Turn right on Massanutten Trail for 1.8 miles. Veer right steeply upward for another 0.4 miles then descending 0.7 miles and returning to the four way junction you turned left at on the way up earlier. Massanutten Connector Trail turns left here.

Continue straight on the yellow blazed Scothorn Gap Trail 1.3 miles, re-crossing Passage Creek and returning to the parking area.

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Hiker Reviews For The Duncan Knob Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the Duncan Knob hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 09, 2016
I hiked this on a very windy April Saturday with 10 members of Central Virginia Trailblazers as part of our yearlong "Knobsession" series of hikes.  We didn't have any trouble navigating the trail, but we did get a little confused near the rock scramble at the base of Duncan Knob.  Apparently we missed a turn, but we got back on track and made it to the top.  We were able to find a lunch spot that was protected from the wind yet still had a great view of the valley...even saw a few snowflakes.  We passed only a couple of hikers the entire day.  All in all a great day to be hiking.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, November 26, 2015
Overall, this is an excellent hike. The most fun part is the rock scramble up Duncan Knob you don't need any true bouldering skills, nor are you hoisting yourself up at any point, but you are climbing up and over decent-sized rocks to a great view at the top (it's cold and windy up there). The trail itself was relatively easy except for one part (to understand the following comments, you need to read the directions). After climbing (or not) Duncan Knob, you resume the Gap Creek trail (blazed in blue). The descent is fairly steep, but the grade isn't the problem. The trail narrows very considerably and it's covered in leaves (remember that I hiked in late November), so it becomes quite slippery. Moreover, if you do lose your footing, you will fall off the trail to the left. The drop isn't precipitous (you're not going to die or even break a bone), but you will get plenty of cuts and bruises. I am usually sure-footed, but this part of the trail challenged me at times. Some parts of the trail were also very muddy. The directions on Hiking Upward are generally good, and perhaps I missed a turn, but after I finished Gap Creek, I came to a three-way intersection, not a four-way intersection it has two wooden signs. Go right, as the directions say. The sign says that Scothorn Gap is 2 miles away I didn't measure it, but it felt longer than 2 miles. Unlike other hikers, I didn't experience any bugs (again, remember that I hiked in late November), and I saw no wildlife. If you like rock scrambles, this is a wonderful hike.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, July 19, 2015
Pretty nice hike, overall, and will probably do it again, but a few things of note:

1) We've had quite a bit of rain in the region lately, so the pond had water and so did the Scothorn Gap Trail, which we nicknamed the "Scothorn Swamp Trail" about 100 feet beyond that left-hand turn from its intersection with the Massanutten Connector Trail.  Very mucky conditions, though clearly visible and passable.  If particularly nimble and careful to rock hop the really wet areas, waterproof footwear not required.  Quite a bit of grass overgrowth on the trail from the left turn all of the way to Gap Creek Trail.

2) We could not find a single white blaze heading up the rock scramble to Duncan Knob, but fortunately, someone was kind enough to place plenty of cairns (each visible from the last) all of the way up from Gap Creek Trail.  Follow them it's the easiest way there and back.  For what it's worth, we did find ONE white blaze on the rock scramble descent.

3) From approximately 2,200ft to 2,600ft on the Massanutten Trail there were regular intervals of overgrown blackberries and brambles.  We had no equipment to clear the trail and did make it through with only minor cuts and scrapes (and this is with long sleeves and pants), but it did cause delay and was pretty dense in some areas.  Presuming the foliage isn't cut back, it's only going to get worse as the growing season progresses and the thorny canes will certainly persist into the colder months, too.

4) We did not venture off of the trails except for the rocky areas immediately around Duncan Knob, but still had to wend our way through a lot of overgrowth on this loop.  Despite that we found exactly ZERO TICKS.  Unbelievable, but true.  Not a single one found on myself or my husband.  Also, only say two waist high sprigs of poison ivy on the Massanutten Trail and they were easily avoidable.

5) At least at this time of year, epic abundance of blackberries and blueberries scattered along the Massanutten and Scothorn Gap Trails for some delicious and easy foraging!

6) Flies, flies, flies!  Scothorn Gap Trail in the morning was the worst.  Blackflies and gnats, mostly, but in clouds dense enough to create a clearly audible whine/buzz as you hiked, not to mention frequent attempts at entering your ears.  We were in baseball caps, sunglasses, long sleeves, and long pants, and did not get bit by any of them.  A broad-brimmed hat would likely serve better to keep them away from your ears.  A copy of the trail map served to keep them away from the face and ears for us, though a branch with some leaves would do as well, too.  Their numbers dropped a bit by Gap Creek Trail beyond Duncan Knob and along Massanutten, but not sure if do to locations or just intensifying heat.  Much more of a nuisance than anything.

7) We were really hoping to find and photograph some timber rattlesnakes, but we found none.  We did, however, find a 6ft black rat snake, an imperial moth, and an assortment of butterflies, large click beetles, and other insects worth taking a moment to watch/photograph.  Also, one fearless doe.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 20, 2014
I did an overnight back pack on this trail with two other friends and we loved it.  There are several predefined camping spots along the trail, one with a nice rock seating and elevated firepit.  We did the rock scramble to the top and the view was breathtaking at sunset.  Saw one couple at the top and other then that the trail was fairly quiet.  Would recommend this trail for anyone looking for something new to try or to do it again!!

By: Omar M Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 25, 2014
Hiked this route 05/25/14. Some of the views were great from the top of the knob. Otherwise, not a great hike - at this time of year, it was very muddy and gnats were all up in our biz. And the ticks were pretty out of control as well - my dog got 14 of them on the day hike. Probably wouldn't want to overnight this route during this season.

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